Former development secretary Greening ‘absolutely shocked’ by claims
Former international development secretary Justine Greening has said she does not recall being aware of the allegations surrounding senior Oxfam aid workers in Haiti.
Speaking to Sky News, the Tory MP said she was “absolutely shocked” to hear of the allegations that some of the charity’s employees used prostitutes in the country following the 2010 earthquake.
She said: “I don’t recall being aware of those allegations but I certainly know that whenever I had any instances raised with me they always would have been followed up.
“I’m not the kind of person who would have ignored anything like that, why would anyone?”
Ms Greening served as secretary of state for international development between 2012 and 2016.
She said that in the first half of 2016 the department was starting to look into how to keep track of people in the NGO sector “who were not behaving appropriately” in order to “make sure they were never allowed to circulate around the system”.
“That’s something I think the NGO sector themselves should have been taking a lead on. They weren’t – but it’s certainly a question I raise with them,” she said.
An inquiry into Oxfam’s sex scandal by the Charity Commission is now due to get under way on Tuesday after the resignation of one of the aid agency’s most senior figures.
Deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence said she took full responsibility for what had happened on her watch and was sorry for the “harm and distress” it had caused supporters.
The charity now faces a battle to “rebuild the public trust” following crisis talks with the Government over future funding, its chief executive Mark Goldring has said.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt told Sky News on Tuesday: “I know people will be worried about the charity, they’ll be worried about the money, but we need to be guided by what the Charity Commission are doing.
“And also I have made it very clear to Oxfam what we expect to see from them but these decisions shouldn’t be taken hastily.”
The Government spent £13.4bn on foreign aid last year, which is 0.7% of GDP. That figure includes almost £31.7m for Oxfam.
However, the charity also relies heavily on public donations, with £115m of its total income coming from donations, legacies and a DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) appeal. Retail sales contributed more than £90m.
Ms Greening’s comments come after Helen Evans, Oxfam’s former head of global safeguarding, said she was told of three examples of sexual misconduct in the space of 24 hours during her time in the post.
She was told about two women being coerced to have sex and a worker who had failed to say he had previously been struck off for sex abuse.
Ms Evans told Channel 4 News: “There was… a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn’t disclosed that, and we were then concerned about what he might be doing, and that was three allegations in one day.”
Oxfam has been given until the end of the week to detail how it will handle any further allegations.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Ms Evans claimed the allegations surrounding Oxfam’s work in Haiti were not an “isolated incident” and that claims began to “flood in” as reporting mechanisms were strengthened.
In response to Ms Evans’ claims, an Oxfam spokesperson said: “We regret that we did not act on Helen’s concerns much quicker and with more resources.”
They added that the charity had “introduced a whole range of measures to improve how we deal with safeguarding issues”.
Ms Evans also hit out at the Charity Commission, the Government and the Children’s Commissioner over the claims, alleging she raised her concerns with all of them in 2015 but no action was taken.
The Children’s Commissioner has since told Sky News Ms Evans did not make contact herself in 2015 but that the office did receive a letter from her MP in 2015. The Commissioner’s office said it wrote back in agreement that DBS checks should take place for those working with children.